May 2021

This VIEW!

May has been a brighter month for me. Earlier in this year, when I learned we would have to prolong our isolation because the COVID vaccine was not approved for kids yet, I fell into a sad slump, which was made worse by other circumstances. However, similar to the experience I had last year — when I realized we were going to be stuck at home for a very long time vs. a 2 week lockdown — I eventually accepted the situation and felt much better. (I am a huge fan of the word ACCEPTANCE. For many years now, I’ve realized that this is a magic word. If you wield it, it has power.)

It goes without saying that beautiful spring weather can lift anyone’s mood. We’ve had a beautiful month, and I’m soaking up the breeze, the birds, flowers and plants. I love sitting on my front porch. It’s my favorite place to be.

Smoky Mountain National Park

After being at home for nearly two years (we had other health issues we were dealing with before the pandemic), we finally got away for a week this month. We rented an Airbnb in the mountains of North Carolina, and I’m sharing photos from that trip in this blog post. The best part of that trip was the view from the porch of our Airbnb. Never in my life have I been so lucky to stay in a place with a view like this. We went birding along the Little Tennessee River Greenway, hiking on the Bartram Trail, and one day we went into the Great Smoky National Park. (We’re planning to go back because there’s so much we couldn’t see in one trip.) We got groceries, ordered take out, sat out on that porch and played games. We had a terrible cell phone signal and no wifi, but we had cable television, which we don’t have at home, so we watched our favorite cooking competitions, Chopped and Iron Chef, and another guilty pleasure, Shark Tank, but that was the only T.V. we watched.

The view at sunset.

Now that we’re home I feel refreshed, and I’ve enjoyed thinking about the homeschool lessons that my boys need to finish up for 5th and 8th grade. They will work until mid-June, and then they’ll enjoy some virtual summer programs. That will slide us into August when we have birthday month, and hopefully by early October we’ll all be fully vaccinated, and the boys can resume face-to-face lessons and other activities. We are especially looking forward to attending music concerts in person again!

William Bartram Trail

At the end of April my 14-year-old received some happy news. He won 2nd place in the state piano competition again, and on top of that, he won 3rd place in a regional competition (8 southern states). You can view his latest performances on his YouTube channel, if you’re interested, and I know he’d love for you to subscribe too. 😉

Little Tennessee River Greenway — Great place for birding. I will share my bird photos someday.

I am also happy to report that I have finished a short PDF resource about homeschooling 8th grade. I have no idea when I’ll have time to post it in my store, but I’ll try to do that soon. Meanwhile, if you have any questions for me, you know where to find me. 🙂 I hope spring is lifting your spirits. Please leave me a message, if you have a moment, and tell me about your favorite part of spring.

Gosh I’m going to miss that view.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

The strings you see hanging down are roots.

This post concludes my series of day trips that we took this summer, which also concludes our 2017-2018 school year. Day trips are some of our most educational and fun activities we can do as homeschoolers. I will try to write about some of the places we go this year too.

The photo does not do it justice, but I loved this statue of a toddler holding onto some frogs, and he’s extremely proud of his capture.
I had to take this photo of a nepenthes pitcher plant for my son who grows carnivorous plants.

My son picked the Atlanta Botanical Garden as his “birthday day trip.” I won’t lie — I wasn’t disappointed about this at all. I have been wanting to go there for a long time. My twelve-year-old has always been into plants, and lately, there’s been a kind of resurgence in this interest. Since I love plants and gardening too, it’s such a pleasure for me to witness this, and what a surprise that he’d pick the botanical garden on his birthday. I thought he might pick a science museum or aquarium like his brother.

We had never been to the Atlanta Botanical Garden before, and we were not disappointed. It was more beautiful than we were expecting. We have been to our state botanical garden, and we’ve been to the Chicago Botanical Garden, and both those places are lovely. (How can gardens not be?) But the Atlanta Botanical Garden was truly special. The boys loved all the plant sculptures in the garden, which was whimsical and made it fun for kids.

The greenhouses, which you see in the background of his photo, were fabulous.
A bloom among the plants of the desert.

It was so big, we didn’t even get to see it all, so we’re planning to go back. I will highlight our favorite spots in the photos. I hope you enjoy them. (And by the way, I was dismayed that I forgot to bring my Nikon with me. If there’s anything I love to photograph, it’s flowers. So there’s another reason to go back. These photos were taken on my phone camera.)

The orchid house was perhaps our favorite place.

Something I’ve never seen before — flowers growing on the bottom of the roots!


Georgia Aquarium

On our recent visit I did not take many photographs except for these awesome puffins, which is a new exhibit. So the other photographs in this post were taken on previous visits to the aquarium.

We have been to the Georgia Aquarium several times (mostly when the boys were smaller), but I realize I have never written a newspaper column or blog post about this amazing aquarium. It used to be the largest aquarium in the world until it was surpassed by an aquarium built in Singapore in 2012. Go there and you can gaze at beluga whales, whale sharks, manta rays, and literally hundreds of amazing smaller species too. We were quite thrilled to get to see their newest exhibit of marine birds, including puffins, on our recent visit, which was on my 9-year-old’s birthday.

I’m not going into detail about what the aquarium has for you to see and do because you can find out about that on their website. Instead, I’m going to babble on about the cost because, geez, this is a very expensive place to visit. ($36 general admission for adults. $30 for kids. And don’t forget parking and food.) That’s why we rarely go. When the boys were small and my eldest son was obsessed with ocean animals, we went a few times. But it was cheaper back then, and I remember finding coupons that allowed us to get in for $15 per adult — they don’t offer those anymore.  (Though they do offer various discounts on their website.)

I have mixed feelings about the expense. I mean, on one hand, it’s too expensive for many families who can’t pay that much to get two adults and their kids into the aquarium. On the other hand, the cost to run that place must be enormous, and I know they are doing all kinds of good research and conservation efforts. So once in a while, we splurge on it.

At least the general admission includes the dolphin show now. It used to not. And the dolphin show is much, much better than it used to be. It’s not cheesy, and it’s more educational. Instead of actors and singers, the real dolphin trainers run the show.

My youngest son just turned nine, and it was his request to visit an aquarium on his birthday. (And you can get in free on your birthday, so there’s that.) We were going to take him to the Tennessee Aquarium because, to be honest, we like it even more than the Georgia Aquarium, and we have only been there once (on my eldest son’s ninth birthday). However, there were severe thunderstorms predicted on his birthday, so we didn’t think it would be wise to drive so far. To make up for that, we purchased two tickets to a dolphin encounter at the Georgia Aquarium. It ended up being a good decision, and I’m the lucky one who got to meet the dolphin with him. (I fulfilled a childhood dream!) It was amazing, and I’m so glad we did it.

If you go, I hope you can go during the week. Saturdays are chaos. I am not joking when I say it’s shoulder to shoulder people, and it’s hard to see any of the exhibits at that point. Also be sure to purchase tickets in advance online, or you’ll be standing in an extremely long line. My son’s birthday happened to be on a Saturday this year, but we got there right when it opened. For an hour or so, it wasn’t too bad. But man, the people came quick. Please go during the week, especially if you’re an introvert. 😉

North Georgia Zoo & Petting Farm

One of the day trips we made this summer was to the North Georgia Zoo & Petting Farm. We had been aware of this zoo for a long time, and we’d always wanted to check it out. My boys had a great time at this zoo.

This is a small and rustic zoo. Don’t expect paved walkways or cool buildings to walk into occasionally. The petting farm (and you can pay just to walk through the petting farm only) is fun. There were sheep, goats, alpacas and a cow to pet. Exotic chickens roamed the area too.

To see the exotic animals, you have to go on a tour, which is included in your admission price. Someone will walk you through this area, and there you’ll find all kinds of interesting animals from different parts of the world. We had a very friendly and knowledgeable guide. I do not remember seeing every animal on their full animal list, but there were plenty of animals to see. I know they have areas of the zoo that we were not permitted to go to because some animals were under special care. You can also purchase tickets for “animal encounters,” which we didn’t do.

At the end of the tour, our guide let us meet three small animals and get a chance to pet them: a small python, armadillo and chinchilla. That was pretty cool.

My husband and I were disappointed to see that some of the animals were in cages that seemed too small, such as the cougar and the New Guinea singing dogs. I realize this is an issue with many zoos, and I also know it takes a tremendous amount of money to care for these animals, which is why we didn’t mind paying the admission fee. However, the admission price is similar to the admission for Zoo Atlanta, which surprised us, considering how much smaller this one was. Perhaps Zoo Atlanta gets more donations, which allows them to keep their prices down?

If you are in the North Georgia mountains and you have children, I would say go visit this zoo. However, I wouldn’t make a special trip again just to see this zoo. The area around the zoo, however, was gorgeous. There are a lot of vineyards in the area. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to combine a trip to the zoo with a visit to a vineyard. 😉

P.S. Sorry there are no photos here of the petting farm. I was too busy petting the animals!

Tellus Science Museum

Several years ago I wrote an informative newspaper column about the Tellus Museum that you can still read, but it’s worth writing about briefly again. Since that first visit, we have been to the Tellus many times, and one year, we had a family membership. But we hadn’t been there in a very long time when we went this summer. That’s the day we also went to the Booth Western Art Museum.

It’s great going back to museums as our kids get older.  Not only do we get to see new additions to the museum, it’s fun to see what our kids are attracted to at different ages. When they were younger, we spent more time in the dinosaur exhibit and with the hands-on kids stuff, especially digging for fossils and panning for gems. We looked through the whole museum back then too, but we couldn’t linger as long in my favorite area, which is the Weinman Mineral Gallery.

But this time we did. In fact, we spent the most time there, and it was great. The boys were much more interested in scrutinizing the beautiful rocks and minerals, and I even read a few of the signs to them. This is why most of my photos are of rocks and minerals this time. I hope you enjoy them, and if you get the chance, I highly recommend that you visit this museum to see them for yourself.

Booth Western Art Museum

The Booth Western Art Museum is located in Cartersville, Georgia. We have been to Cartersville many times to visit the Tellus Science Museum, but we didn’t visit the Booth Museum until this summer because we thought the boys might be too young to appreciate the art. Now that they are a little older, they appreciate art more, and my eldest especially enjoys the museums. My youngest tolerates them well. 😉

We were expecting a much smaller “hole-in-the-wall” museum, but the Booth Museum is in a beautiful, modern building, and it was too big for us to see it all in one visit. Well, at least on the same day we promised the boys we’d go to the Tellus Museum too. In addition, we ate lunch and found a great ice cream place in the quaint downtown area of Cartersville. It made a fun day trip, and we are planning to go again sometime. I think the Booth Museum is going to become one of my favorite art museums, and it’s not just because I lived in the West for twelve years. There were beautiful works of art in this museum that I wanted to gaze at and savor longer than my young boys would let me.

If you go, I recommend watching the 15 minute introductory film and then make your way to the sculpture area. The sculptures (both indoor and outdoor) were breathtaking. There is also a Civil War room where you can follow the story of the Civil War through paintings in chronological order. Looking at their website, I see we missed the Sagebrush Ranch, an interactive gallery for kids too. (A good excuse to go back!)

If you live in Georgia, are interested in the West, or you are homeschooling and studying the American expansion, I highly recommend a visit to this museum. You won’t be disappointed. There is also a fun gift shop with many books and educational toys for kids regarding the West.

Michael C. Carlos Museum

We love to take the boys on day trips to interesting places around this region, and this summer, we’ve been on several. I’m going to try to write about all the places we’ve been, and I’m starting with the Michael C. Carlos Museum, which is located on the campus of Emory University.

The Carlos Museum is an art museum that collects and preserves art and artifacts. At the top of this post you can see one of their Egyptian mummies. According to their website, they have about 17,000 ancient artifacts from Egypt, the Near East, Greece, Rome, the Americas, Asia and Africa. They also have works on paper from the Renaissance to the present day. (Not everything is on display.)

We will have to return to this museum again and again as we continue with our history lessons. The museum is not huge, but it was bigger than we thought it would be. This past year and a half, we have studied Ancient India, China, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greece, so it complemented our studies perfectly.

If you live in the area, I highly recommend that you check out this museum, and even if you don’t, be sure to look at their website. They have some interactive sites for kids as well as a podcast.

Have you been to this museum? Please tell me about your experience.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

The last place I want to share with you from our trip to Biloxi is the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park located in Mobile, AL. My boys have enjoyed learning about military vehicles and the history that goes with them ever since they started playing digital games. Of course, my husband, who is a history professor, has been interested in this stuff since he was a young boy too, and the park definitely brought out the kid in him.

Learn about the impressive history of the USS Alabama here.

This is the third military museum we’ve visited (not counting plenty of military exhibits we’ve stopped to see at other places), but it’s the first warship they have been able to tour. It was quite impressive with many exhibits, short films, and of course, just seeing the inside.

Took one look at that and thought, I’m glad I wasn’t the one doing those dishes.

The park also has many aircraft both inside and outside the buildings, and the other big highlight was touring a submarine.

Here is the USS Drum.

If you’re interested in military history and are near Mobile, Alabama, this place is a must see.

Noah’s Ark

If you live in Georgia, I recommend you take a drive to the town of Locust Grove and visit Noah’s Ark. We’ve been there twice, but the first time we went, it was flooded, so we were only able to walk around the perimeter, although we had fun doing that too. This last time, we made sure it was open by calling first. My photos in this post are from both times we went. 🙂

Noah’s Ark is an animal sanctuary. The animals here were rescued from less-than-ideal captive situations, and none of them are capable of being released back into the wild. Some were injured. Some have come from zoos that were failing. Some were illegal and/or surrendered pets. Some have been retired from science laboratories. According to their website, they have over 1,500 exotic, wildlife and domestic animals and over 100 species of animals!

There were quite a few tigers at Noah’s Ark as well as bears and parrots and primates. You can see photos of all their animals here. I especially loved the peacocks who roam freely around the property, which is why I have too many peacock photos in this post. 🙂

Definitely related to the dinosaurs. 🙂

What I loved about Noah’s Ark is that the habitats are quite large, and most of them are under a canopy of hardwoods. We couldn’t see some of the animals who were probably sleeping somewhere in the tall grass, but I was okay with that. It was good to see that they had a nice space to roam.

It may look like these tigers are in a small cage, but they can actually walk out into a larger area too.

The admission to Noah’s Ark is free, so everyone can go and enjoy the animals. However, they operate solely on donations, and it’s quite expensive to feed all those animals, so you may want to consider donating, if you can. They have limited hours so that the animals can have plenty of quiet, which I like too. The Habitat is open Tuesday-Saturday from 12-3p.m. But you can visit the playground and visitor’s center (and walk around the perimeter) Tuesday-Saturday from 9-4p.m. 

You can never have too many photos of peacocks.

The Greenville Zoo

It’s autumn, and the weather is just right for day trips! Yesterday we decided to take a trip to the Greenville Zoo.

Greenville, South Carolina is about an hour and a half from our home, and on our previous day trip there, we decided we’d like to go back more than once. It’s a beautiful, small city.

The zoo is small, but it was beautiful and just the right size for us. It’s nice to check out different zoos because you’ll always find some animals you have never seen before. We loved the spider monkeys and this beautiful vulture from Africa. Who says vultures are ugly? They are such cool birds.

I’ve always had mixed feelings about zoos because I hate to see animals in cages. Still, I know zoos do a lot of good conservation and research, so I want to support them too. It’s important for people, especially children, to have a chance to view live animals so that they will learn and care about them.

The Greenville Zoo is next to a beautiful park (with a very big playground right next to the zoo entrance) that winds its way through the city. We also had time to go downtown for lunch and check out a couple of the shops. I didn’t take any photos of the city, but you can find a bunch of images online if you google “greenville, sc downtown.”